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Berlin Berghain: a Guide to the World’s Most Famous Techno Club
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Berlin Berghain: a Guide to the World’s Most Famous Techno Club

Justifiably renowned as both a cultural institution and a hotbed of debauchery, this club’s storied history is longer than the formidable lines outside of it. Here’s what you need to know before you try your luck at getting in.

Shrouded in lore and steeped in history, Berghain has presided over Berlin’s nocturnal scene for more than a decade. Though the city has no shortage of nightclubs, this former power plant holds an allure unmatched by any other. Some of the world’s best DJs have spun either booming minimal techno in the cavernous main hall downstairs or funkier house and tech-house in Panorama Bar. Over the years, these halls have hosted everyone from ballet dancers to classical musicians to Lady Gaga, who threw her Artpop album launch party here. The club has cultivated a reputation as one of the hardest places to get into in the world. Celebrities including Britney Spears have been famously turned away at the door, sometimes after standing in line for hours. People are so obsessed with getting in that sites such as Berghain Trainer (https://berghaintrainer.com/) offer tips on how to make it past the bouncer. Here’s what you need to know before you go.

Dress the Part

There’s a pervasive myth that the right ensemble will let you waltz past Sven Marquardt and the other bouncers. If you want to err on the cautious side, plain black or dark-coloured clothing and leather boots can’t hurt your chances. Latex, leather and fetish gear will generally boost your odds. That said, regulars and more daring types will often rock up in anything from glitter-crusted spandex to powder-blue sundresses. Unless you’re a drag queen, avoid high heels—you’re here to dance, not to pose.

Keep Your Cool at the Door

Unless you’re German and a regular, refrain from talking in the line, especially as you approach the door. If you’re wearing dark sunglasses, take them off when you approach the bouncer so as not to seem rude. Depending on their mood, bouncers may wave you in right away or make you wait for several minutes. If the latter happens, be patient and try to look as nonchalant as you can manage. Always look up the DJ line-up in advance; if the bouncer asks why you’re here, you have a much better chance of squeaking in if you can say you just want to make sure you catch Ben Klock’s set. Also, instead of braving the three-hour line on a Saturday night, consider swinging by during the early afternoon on Sunday, when the crowd tends to thin out.

Fly Solo

Your chances of making it through those imposing doors are inversely proportional to the number of people you bring with you. Groups of more than three or four members seldom make the cut, while pairs are preferred. This is one of the rare clubs in the world where your best bet may be to go it alone. There’s a reason the bouncers tend to look favourably upon solo travellers: the club tries to pry people out of their usual cliques and get them to talk to strangers.

Play by the Rules

While it may feel like anything goes in this hedonistic temple, like any other social space Berghain has its own implicit rules of decorum. In other words, it’s fine to run around in full fetish attire or nothing but your birthday suit, but racism, sexism, homophobia, or violence of any sort will get you booted out faster than you can say Scheiße! Bouncers in plain clothes are constantly roaming around looking for signs of trouble, so mind your manners.

Don’t Take Photos

No, really, we mean it. Just don’t. Berghain’s notoriously strict no-picture policy serves several very real purposes. For starters, it ensures that this remains a space where everyone (including the celebrities and politicians who have been known to frequent the place) can safely toss their inhibitions to the wind. The last thing anyone wants on Monday morning is to find a visual evidence of themselves clad head-to-toe in latex tagged on social media. Second, it means people hit the dance floor instead of vamping it up on Instagram. Yes, there will always be one or two jerks who try to sneak a cheeky selfie, but such behaviour is viewed as gauche and decidedly uncool. Plus, bartenders have been known to publically confiscate or smash smartphones and blacklist their owners, so it’s better to play it safe.

Have a Backup

Maybe today just isn’t your day. Maybe the club is packed or maybe the bouncer doesn’t quite like your look. Don’t take it too personally; most of the people inside have probably been rejected at one point or another too. When you hear “Heute leider nicht,” avoid throwing a tantrum and accept your fate with grace. Luckily, there are more than a dozen of the world’s other best nightclubs within a few kilometres and a negative verdict doesn’t mean you need to head home. Get your techno fix at Kater Blau, Tresor, or, especially when the weather is nice, Sisyphos. For a slightly swankier clubbing experience, consider Watergate.

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